Vegetables are the natural power bars of the food world—their nutrients make them tasty superstars.
How to Cook Raw Vegetables
Nothing beats the taste of a vine-ripened tomato or fresh cucumber. Before eating, wash raw veggies thoroughly to remove dirt and residue.
Raw vegetables can be cooked in a variety of ways, depending on available time:
- Microwave vegetables in a small amount of water following microwave instructions.
- Steam vegetables in a steamer insert over boiling water. Add about 1 cup of water per pound of vegetables. If you salt the water, use 1/4 teaspoon of salt per cup of water.
- Sauté vegetables in a small amount of vegetable oil.
- Roast vegetables in a single layer in the oven, brushing first with olive oil (add sea salt to taste).
- Grill vegetables on skewers, in a grill basket, on a metal grid brushed with oil or on a sheet of aluminum foil poked with air holes (nonstick foil works well) or try wrapping veggies in a foil packet. Brush occasionally during grilling with melted margarine or butter, olive or vegetable oil, salad dressing, or a marinade to keep veggies moist.
Looking for snack-sized raw veggies? Try “baby vegetables,” which are either harvested early or genetically bred miniatures. They include beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, corn, eggplant, potatoes and squash. Baby vegetables may be more expensive than full-size counterparts, but they cook more quickly because of their small size.
How to Cook Frozen Vegetables
Running short on time? Tired of forgetting vegetables at the back of the refrigerator? Keep a supply of frozen vegetables on hand for fast side dishes and stir-fry accompaniments. Frozen vegetables are blanched (cooked briefly in hot water) and quickly frozen. Blanching and freezing preserves nutrients and tenderizes vegetables at the same time, so frozen veggies cook in less time than fresh. Frozen veggies also “keep” for a significant length of time at 0°F. The best way to cook frozen vegetables is to follow the instructions on the package’s label.
How to Cook Commercially-Canned Vegetables
Canned vegetables are an indispensable convenience for busy cooks. Choose cans without dents, bulges or leaks. Heat canned vegetables, undrained, until hot; drain before serving. Follow instructions on the label for cooking tips.
Farm-fresh vegetables can be eaten throughout the year when preserved and canned. Just remember not to cook or eat home-canned vegetables if the air seal is loose—it should be completely clean and air-tight to prevent the growth of bacteria. As a safety precaution, boil all low-acid home-canned foods (tomatoes, green beans, corn, carrots and beets, for instance) for at least 10 minutes before serving.
How to Store Vegetables
Wonder how long fresh vegetables will keep? Use the following guidelines for storage length and location. Place unwashed vegetables in perforated or regular vegetable bags before storing. Vegetables keep as follows:
- Refrigerate 2 to 4 days: Asparagus, beet greens, chard, collard greens, green peas, green onions, fresh lima beans, mushrooms, mustard greens, spinach and turnip greens. Leave sweet corn in husks and refrigerate uncovered.
- Refrigerate 3 to 5 days: Bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, green beans, lettuce, okra and summer squash.
- Refrigerate 1 to 2 weeks: Beets, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, radishes and turnips.
- Store in a dark, dry, well-ventilated place between 45ºF and 60ºF for 2 weeks: Garlic, onions, potatoes, uncut winter squash with hard rinds. Store onions and potatoes separately to reduce spoiling.
- Store at room temperature: Tomatoes (they’ll ripen). Keep tomatoes away from direct sunlight, which can make them mushy and pulpy.
Fresh Vegetable Cooking Chart